Fourth Sunday of Lent Year C
Today’s Gospel is that of the Prodigal Son. We are familiar with the story but it is worth another look.
I never thought to look up the meaning of ‘prodigal’ until recently – it means wasteful, reckless, extravagant, uncontrolled, dissolute.
Many older people can identify with the father in the story anxiously awaiting the son’s return. There is strangely no mention of the mother in the story – not sure why, because it is mostly mothers who ask my prayers for children and grandchildren in trouble – with the law, with not going to Mass, with health worries, or that they are cohabiting with no intention to marry, and away from the sacraments and anxious and worried about their future. Where did it all go wrong, they ask me, having done their best to raise them in a Christian manner?
Some of us might be the older brother pointing the finger at other members of the family; we are jealous or resentful at favouritism or preferential treatment showed to a brother or sister. We resent their getting away with things more lightly than we would have - we got the wooden spoon or the back of a hairbrush or other ingenious uses of household items that our parents found to punish us with not intended by the manufacturers!! So there is something for everyone in the parable.
Some of us might identify with the black sheep of the family. The young man –being the younger was entitled to one third of the income. He was a young man who found himself with 'a fat wallet in a big city 'and false friends who abandoned him when the money ran out.
Some of us we have lived this story. We can identify ourselves with that foolish, reckless young fellow. But over time our rebellion and youthful pride turned into disillusionment, and we grew up. We saw through our own foolishness, and when we were let down by others we placed our trust in we were left with the only ones who would take us in and we made the journey home. We learned a painful, life-changing lesson that haunts us or woke us up to reality, but also to forgiveness from God and family.
Some of us have to make the journey more than once. Maybe we re-live it in our own lives through the continuous need to break free from the shackles of some addiction or compulsive behaviour that we are trying to wrench ourselves from – we are trapped by our own appetites and compulsive desires. [We may not venture as far away from the Father as before but we are still willing to venture away.] We have wounded others and the repair job is difficult; we are prone to temptations and give in to them easily. It may be hatred, our temper, anger, gossip, pride, lustful tendencies or actions, addiction to pornography (as highlighted in the paper yesterday as the chief growing cause of marital breakdown), over-eating or drinking to excess, laziness, envy and resentment. We are filled with loathing for our sins and for ourselves for falling continuously and readily more than once. Filled with pride and presumption that we are safe and immune from sin we fall again in a seemingly endless cycle. We scarcely hope that freedom is possible.
So whether you have had one major dramatic awakening in your life or are plagued by constant repetition and the need of repentance of the same sin this parable tells us that you and I may dare to hope in receiving God’s forgiveness yet again. Our God is a God of joy and just as there is rejoicing in the young man’s return so God rejoices in ours.
Four words – forwards
I read of a young girl who in her college years fell away from going to Mass and personal prayer, who got involved in a relationship, became pregnant and had an abortion. Years of terrible unhappiness and self-destructive behaviour followed, until one day she was flicking channels on her TV when she heard a preacher say 4 words that changed her outlook and helped her on her journey home. Maybe these four words are words we need to hear today. Maybe our story is not as dramatic as the prodigal son or the girl I mentioned. But this Lent may we avail of the opportunity like them to confess our sins.
What are these 4 words that you and I both need and which sum up today’s Gospel? :
‘God wants you back’.